Michael Holt came within a single frame of a maiden ranking title last season when he reached the Shoot Out final. The Hitman is hoping this will be the season where he takes that extra step and secures his first major silverware.
We spoke to the Nottingham cueman to discuss a range of topics including the season ahead, fatherhood and his Open University degree…
Michael, you got your season off to the perfect start by qualifying for both the Riga Masters and the International Championship. The former is being staged this weekend and sees the season kick off in earnest. Having been a former finalist in Riga you must be looking forward to travelling there again?
“Good memories at events are few and far between for me! It is a lovely city, with nice food and the weather is usually good. I am really just looking forward to the season as a whole if I am honest. I feel that I am in a really good place on and off the table and I’m ready to play some good snooker. I played well at qualifying. I put in a few hours ahead of it to get ready and managed to get wins in both events.”
Your best run of last season came in reaching the Shoot Out final, where you lost out to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. It is obviously a very different sort of event, but it was one which you bought into. How much did you enjoy that week?
“I’ve done well a few times at the Shoot Out and I don’t think it is a coincidence. The shot clock doesn’t give you time to think and you just need to play by instinct. If I played on instinct all of the time then it would be easily good enough to play very well. I know what I am doing and I can play the sport properly. I get in my own way mentally. I’m not on my own in that regard. That is what I have to fix. I’m not a slow player and I see the shot straight away. If I can just trust my instincts, then I will have a better chance of getting good results.
“It was brilliant to have my wife Amy and my son Jude there along with some other family as well. My dad was watching on television back at home. I really enjoyed the occasion. However, when you are out there it is a bit of blind panic as you don’t have that time to think and take it all in.
“The Shoot Out can sometimes divide opinion, but before Barry Hearn got involved you would have given your left arm for an extra event. It is not that long ago that we were basically part-time players. This is a brilliant time to be a snooker player. I’d love to be a 21-year-old right now. There is so much to go at. You can travel the world and play the sport you love. It is an amazing opportunity. I feel I have a good few years left though. I don’t feel like a 40-year-old. Age shouldn’t be a problem in snooker.”
Is your main target for the season ahead to get that first ranking title under your belt?
“The target is always to win. At the end of the day people only remember the events you have won. To make five finals or something this season would be great, but to win one and have that day in the sun would be the ultimate. If you can get that picture of you and your family with the trophy it is something that is there forever. To manage that I have to put myself in more positions to get over the line. I need to be more consistent and I have to play to the level that I can play more consistently. That is what the top players do. They don’t raise their level that much above everyone else’s highest. What they do is avoid playing badly. I need to be more consistent and play to the standard, which I am easily capable of, more often.”
Your son Jude is now over a year old. How much perspective has being a father given you for your snooker career?
“It’s definitely been a distraction and a good one. A lot has happened over the past few years away from the table in terms of becoming a father and getting married. My wife is brilliant and basically runs my life. She makes the decisions and I can just focus on the snooker. Hopefully I will now be able to handle things a little bit better than I have done away from the baize. I need to provide for three of us now.”
You worked with coach Chris Henry last year. Will you be continuing to work with Chris this season?
“I won’t actually, but I learned so much from Chris and I can’t speak highly enough of him. He is a great bloke and a great coach. We worked on a lot of things and I added a lot to my game. However, I am at an age now where I know the game. I have been around the block a few times. I know what I have to do and what I need to work on. The year I had with Chris was great and he helped me an unbelievable amount.”
How is your Open University course going?
“I have two modules to go. I won’t be finishing it this year as I have got quite a lot on in terms of family stuff and doing up the house. I am definitely going to finish it though. Even if it is just so I can get back some of the bragging rights from my wife, who has passed the Bar and tells me that I am stupid all of the time!
“I am doing an open degree. I started off doing business, but I found it to be a bit of a snooze fest to be honest. I have started doing politics modules now and that is what I should have done from the start. I take an interest in politics and enjoy engaging in it and learning about it.
“When you are away at tournaments you do get a lot of time when there is nothing happening. The travelling can be tiring so it is good to have something to focus on. I have said for years now that the young lads in snooker should be encouraged to do some sort of degree. It is a brilliant thing to do and I cant believe more don’t. It isn’t really in the culture or demographic of current professional players, but I really believe it would be a good thing for more of them to do.”